April 2019, I matched with a guy on Bumble by the name of ‘Levi’. The pictures on his profile presented him as an easy-going, down-to-earth guy. We exchanged the usual online-dating small talk to see what things we had in common, relating that we each owned a dog.
My issue with dog owners and online dating is that people seem to believe having a dog is a personality trait. Guys think it gives them a ‘leg up’, as demonstrated when a male dog urinates, neither seem to have a problem peeing on trees. Perhaps they interpreted this similarity as a character-building activity with man’s best friend.
Girls freak out over male dog owners, thinking this is their opportunity to showcase their nurturing and domestic skills. On their millennial search to achieve “Wifey-Material” status, they believe caring for a man’s furbaby will make them worthy. While your dog may affectionately thank and praise you for food from a can, the same standards typically don’t apply when you prepare Chef Boyardee for a grown man.
The next level up from the standard dog-owning pride are the guys who have adopted their dogs and think that this makes them a VIP dog owner. My parents adopted me, you don’t see them bragging to others! I put a deposit down when my dog was born and waited three months for him and people think that means I’m not committed???? I’m as committed as someone in a mental institution!!
So anyway, Levi was doing the usual pretentious spiel about how he loves his dog, he really is man’s best friend, rides shotgun, and it’s them against the world. I’ve come to interpret the way people speak about their dogs as a direct expression of who they are. Someone who raves about their pet in the sense it’s superior than all others of its breed often thinks the same way about himself.
I arrived for our date at Break Room 86 in Koreatown, Los Angeles and met Levi outside. He was smoking a cigarette, wearing a leather jacket and combat boots, his hair clearly slicked back under his hat, truly embodying the idea of a greaser. I was wearing my usual bootie heels and knew as I approached him, I would be taller. I have no problem dating someone shorter than I am, but I’ve learnt it tends to give many guys a complex. Observing his body language, I knew this would be the case with him.
We entered the retro-style bar, with cassettes lining the walls and arcade machines. It was a pretty cool place and several of my friends had spoken highly of it. There was a bar area with substantial walking space, room for dancing and then staggered levels of tables. Behind the tables were private karaoke rooms with small windows, a staple in any Koreatown bar. All the private rooms were occupied and you could hear the competing music coming from them.
Scanning the room for an empty table, we found one closer to the back. Like a normal person, I sat down in the designated area. Levi was not ready to play “normal customer” yet and walked over to one of the private booths with the windows. Like a peeping Tom, he went up to each window and peered through. Apparently, this didn’t satisfy his curiosity, as he went to the door and fully walked into their karaoke session, excusing himself when everyone went silent and stared at him. He shrugged his shoulders and came to sit down with me, playing it off like imposing himself on others was their issue not his. That’s basically the equivalent of being at a club, walking up to someone’s private table, looking into the ice bucket to see what they ordered, and then walking away. You just don’t do that. He would probably be the kind of person to open the fridge at your parents’ house after meeting them for the first time. Too comfortable, too fast makes me uncomfortable.
Now seated across from me, he asked what I would like to drink. I asked for my usual Tito’s and water as he stood up and looked toward the bar. Now standing above me, with his thumbs hooked into his belt loops he kept looking towards the bar and then back at me. His prolonged stare and stance made me assume he was mentally planning the quickest route there.
I gave this guy too much credit.
Levi: So…what, you’re just going to sit there?
Umm didn’t this guy just offer to go get the drinks?
Levi: Well…I don’t want to walk allll the way over there on my own. You’re really not going to come with me??
I thought his height was genetic, not relative to his maturity, that he needed a chaperone.
Me: Sorry, I have heels on and rather not walk, but I’ll hold the table?
Levi huffed to himself and let out a “Wowwwww” slightly under his breath but audible enough for me to hear and grudgingly headed towards the bar.
Me: Make sure to put extra GHB in mine!
He didn’t seem to find my comment as funny as I did. I was left sitting there genuinely confused. The bar was in plain view, he was getting two drinks and he had two hands, why would I have had to go?
He came back and set my drink down in front of me, “Thereeeeeee you go, Tito’s and water”.
I thanked him and smiled, knowing I was going to have to play nice in an attempt to neutralize the situation. Approaching an easy subject, I asked what he did for work. He was an actor. Sometimes I feel I don’t ask people enough questions but the wonderful thing about insecure guys is that you don’t need to. They’ll answer the questions you didn’t even know you asked! Levi took my one generic question of “What do you do?” and ran with it. Kudos to his memory as he recited me his entire IMBD work history. Honestly, it was probably more aligned with a Wikipedia page but I played along. The work he listed was the equivalent of being the anonymous patient on the operating table in an episode of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. I feigned interest, congratulating him when I thought he expected it. Confident in his Z-list celebrity status at most, he offered to hire me as his personal makeup artist on his next set. I mean that is absolutely not how the industry works but I nodded and smiled for the hundredth time. My compliant attitude apparently encouraging him to go on.
Levi pulls out his phone. “Let me actually show you the kind of makeup I like. I just love a good sun-kissed glow, you know, like not too contoured but like chiseled.”
Me: Yeah, I get that, normally I don’t do a lot of makeup on guys.
I may as well have been talking to myself.
Levi: I’ve seen some guys where I just don’t like their makeup, some guys they don’t know what they like but I do.
Never have I had a guy show me inspiration pics for the kind of makeup he would like…unless it’s special effects. Male makeup is typically only the basics and where needed.
Levi searches through Google images continuing “I love Tom Cruise’s makeup, it’s really natural, but he’s always perfectly bronzed.”
I didn’t even know how to respond to that…like yes, I’m a makeup artist but this was just so bizarre to me. God only knows how much time he spent admiring himself in the mirror to be able to come to that conclusion. Knowing my only chance at changing the subject would still need to revolve around him I asked about the tattoos visible on his arms. He had a solid black armband around one of his forearms and then a few others scattered across both arms. Like a good show-and-tell presentation he began explaining each one before landing on a pair of army dog tags. He wraps his hand around it pausing to cherish it for a moment before continuing.
Levi: This one is really sentimental. It’s actually for my grandfather, he fought in the war and so he’s always been an inspiration to me.
Me: Oh cool, mine too, which war did your grandfather serve in?
Levi: Oh! Pfft. Well, I never asked him that!
He looked at me as if I had just said the ludicrous statement of the evening and not him! What!? Howwww can you even say someone is an inspiration to you but then not be curious about the event you deemed them inspirational for? You went ahead and got their ID tattooed on your body but never took two seconds to ask them or even one of your relatives which war he served in?? I mean fuck say Vietnam or WWII, I would’ve been none the wiser and at least you wouldn’t have come across as an ignorant prick!
I was still attempting to process his idiocy when he asked me to go outside with him for a cigarette. I don’t smoke so I tried to use my walking/heel excuse again to stay inside but he kept pleading. Exasperated, I figured it would be easier to just oblige. We got outside for him to let me know he had actually smoked his last one before but we could quickly cross the street to the store so he could grab a new pack. Ugh, this calculatjng little shit is making me walk more now.
We crossed the street and outside the store was a homeless man asking for change. I’m inviting any interaction at this point to avoid the bozo. I apologized to the man that I didn’t have any cash on me, but I’d gladly pick something up for him. He simply requested a pack of sunflower seeds, I asked if that was all and he nodded. I smiled in acknowledgment and pulled the door to the store open not wanting to make this more than the simple gesture that it was. Levi apparently had another agenda and fucking LOVED the idea of helping someone out and got all jumpy.
Levi: Yeah man! Totally! Let’s go inside! Pick out whatever you want, man!!
Noooo, please don’t be that guy! You’re already bad enough! His actions weren’t coming from a genuine place of kindness but more for his own fulfillment. I’m surprised he didn’t ask me to film him doing this “good deed”. I wouldn’t put it past him to fall into that category of people whom I dislike more than adopting dog-owners. Both may independently be good acts but they get discredited when done looking for approval.
Anyway, back to the current scene where Levi is basically jumping up and down like a frat boy at a tailgate, hustling the man into the store.
Levi: So man, what do you want? Beer? Cigarettes? Papers? You want it, you got it! You tell me man, I got you!
Again the man just politely asks for some sunflower seeds.
Levi: Nahhhh man, come onnnn! You want alcohol eh? You want a beer, don’t you? Get yourself a beer!
Fuck, I need a beer, feeling my face get increasingly red from embarrassment.
The man: I’m okay, thank you, I’m actually sober.
Levi: Ahhhhh okay okay, no worries, as I said, I got you man. No alcohol, No problem! You probably want cigarettes though no? Let’s get you cigarettes!
I was fucking enraged at that point, disgusted by his arrogant attitude. Levi was standing at the cash, his back to the cashier angling himself as if preaching to me and the homeless man. He was pointing to parts of the store as if to demonstrate what the almighty Levi could offer us. The homeless man and I just stared blankly at him. The way he had positioned his body blocked me from buying the things myself and walking out. I turned to the man beside me and encouraged him to take the cigarettes and trade them with someone afterwards. The man nodded in agreement, both of us wanting this pompous idiot to shut up. I apologized for Levi’s behaviour, wished him a good night and excused myself to wait outside. What was meant to be a casual act had been hijacked into a complete shitshow. I figured removing myself would remove Levi’s ‘audience’ and hopefully there could be some redemption. Why did I continually give this kid the benefit of the doubt? I thought maximum ignorance had already been reached when I heard about his tattoo, but he surprised me again. As Levi walked out of the store, I was walking toward the corner in search of my Uber. Levi jogged up to me and grabbed my arm. “Wait, wait, wait! I have to tell you this! I think I REALLY made a change for that guy!”
Lord have mercy.
Levi: You know, I looked at that guy, you know, really looked at him and I told him… He didn’t have to be homeless!!!
Levi: Yeah! Like I looked at him and said Bro, you know, you don’t gotta be homeless and he looked back at me and he said ‘yeahhhhhhh you’re right’ like I totally made a difference in this guy’s life!
At this point he had started laughing to himself like he just won the lottery, smiling ear to ear.
Levi: Wowwww! I just feel good!!! Wowwwww! You should’ve seen it! He agreed!
I think I was genuinely dumbfounded. There have been few moments in my life that have left me speechless due to others’ arrogance but this made the list. I am terrible at confrontation or in an uncomfortable position, but I just couldn’t hold it in any longer.
“You don’t think that guy is aware that he’s homeless? You don’t know the situations that got him there! Whether he’s a veteran, mentally ill, whether it was drugs like you assumed or he was just shit out of luck. Did you offer him a purposeful resource to help him change his path? You assumed that because he was homeless, he was an addict and you telling him he didn’t need to be merits respect like you’re the messiah who saved him???”
My Uber had been four minutes away before I started my rant but I guess time flies when you’re having fun. Maybe it was arrogant on my end to have unleashed on him just before leaving, maybe he did have the right intentions just the wrong delivery, nonetheless you can’t argue with stupid.
On a more serious note, I don’t often react to situations if I’m the only one who’s affected. I do however react when I sense someone else is being treated unfairly. I felt Levi was treating the homeless man unfairly. I felt he was condescending and disrespectful and acted as if he was immune to the possibility of ever being in that position himself. To tell someone they don’t ‘need’ to be homeless is patronizing. Most people have a smartphone with a simple search that can be used to find resources to offer someone in need. If Levi had taken the time to talk with the man instead of talking at him, he could’ve better understood his needs. Helping someone is letting them express their needs and not imposing what you think they need.
The extent of the homeless crisis in California is something I had never truly understood before living there. The possibility of it happening to you isn’t unfathomable but more a looming threat. I used to judge others quickly on their choices assuming their situations to be a reflection of who they were without taking into account what landed them there. From the comfort of my own reality, I couldn’t understand there might have been many factors that led up to that point. I didn’t even consider that they might not have wanted to be in that situation themselves.
When I moved to LA, I left everything I knew and that comforted me behind (except my dog). While having lived on my own since 21, it was the first time I learned to be fully independent. I didn’t have a lifeline like I’d been accustomed to and had to be fully self-sufficient. When taken out of your normal environment and exposed to the harsh realities of the world, you change your outlook. My personal experiences, in addition to those shared with me by others, made me more empathetic. I can no longer relate to my previous close-minded judgement of others, and I react when I feel someone around me is doing just that. Whether it be working a job you never thought you would or finding yourself homeless, your reality is not what defines you. The present doesn’t define your future but your drive, perseverance and resilience do.